Modi's party wins big in key states

Haryana, Maharashtra victories seen as endorsement for his federal govt

This article was first published on Oct 20, 2014

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won elections in two key states, northern Haryana and western Maharashtra, where it emerged as the biggest party, in a boost for its key campaigner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In Maharashtra, the BJP looked set to double the number of seats it won in the 2009 state election, leading in 123 of the 288 seats in the state assembly.

But this would still fall short of a simple majority. That means the BJP would have to launch negotiations with regional parties to form a government.

Mr Modi had campaigned extensively in the state in the run-up to yesterday's election, urging voters to give him a clear mandate.

In Haryana, the BJP looked headed for an outright majority, winning 47 out of 90 seats.

The BJP saw the win as an endorsement of Mr Modi's five-month-old federal government.

"The BJP is going to form a government in both states and will perform well," said party president Amit Shah.

The state-level polls in Maharashtra and Haryana are the first major elections held since Mr Modi led the BJP to a landslide victory in the country's general election in May, decimating opposition parties.

State elections are important because they determine the number of seats a party holds in the Upper House of Parliament whose representatives are chosen by the state assemblies.

While the BJP has a majority in the Lower House, it is not in majority in the Upper House, where it still needs the requisite numbers to pass legislation.

Analysts noted that the BJP had managed to win in the two states where its organisation has been weak.

"It was difficult for the party to get a landslide within a few months because it does not have a strong organisation in Maharashtra, and the charisma of its leader (Modi) alone was not enough," said political analyst Sudhir Panwar.

"But still it is a gain for the BJP in both the states," he added.

Some saw BJP's gains to be the result of the poor performance of the two state governments led by the opposition Congress party.

"I take it as a normal democratic reaction to a government which failed to deliver on its promises and did not provide good governance," said Mr Buddhadeb Ghosh, a senior fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences.

"The verdict was against bad governance and the BJP was the only alternative, so it gained," he added.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who was not seen much during the campaigning, accepted the verdict.

"We accept the people's verdict. Congress will work hard on the ground to once again earn the people's confidence in Congress," he said.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg